Ballads & Songs of Southern Michigan-songbook

A Collection of 200+ traditional songs & variations with commentaries including Lyrics & Sheet music

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352          Ballads and Songs of Michigan
For details of the murder of Mary Phagan, on which this ballad is based, see The New York Times Index, 1913, 1914, and 1915. The murder occurred on August 5, 1913, in the National Pencil Company's factory, Adanta, Georgia. It was an interesting case which became an issue in the senatorial campaign. About two months after Governor Slaton had commuted the suspected mur­derer's sentence to a life term a mob kidnaped and lynched him. See Carter, JAFL, XLVI, 39-40, and Henry, JAFL, XLIV, 105-107. The collected versions of this ballad are of particular interest because they represent a piece of folklore in the making. For a version of fourteen stanzas and discussion see Franklin Bliss Snyder, JAFL, XXXI, 264-266. The Michigan version is the most direct and dramatic of those so far recorded. If the last stanza refers to the lynching, it shows almost a sophisticated use of suggestion, although the song appears to have originated and lived only by word of mouth.
The present version was sung by Miss Mabel Tuggle, Detroit, who had learned the song in her home town, Concord Depot, Virginia.
1 Little Mary Phagan She went to town one day, She went to the pencil factory To get her little pay.
1 Mary Phagan was so pretty
When she kissed her mother goodbye, Little did the poor child think That she was going to die.
3   When she got to the factory, The janitor let her in, Instead of giving her her pay, He did a dreadful sin.
4   Many long hours her mother wept Over that evil day,
For Mary was her sole support With her little pay.
*> The sheriff he was a wise good man, He never flicked a hair, He let them string that janitor up And left him hanging there.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III